Doner Kebab recipe

Easy homemade doner kebab recipe for wraps, plates, salads or bowls packed with flavor made at home!

Doner Kebabs are a Turkish kebab recipe that’s healthy, juicy and bursting with exotic flavors from an easy marinade layered with hand-picked seasonings. Doner kebabs are usually cooked on a rotating spit but I’ve included how to grill or bake the chicken kebabs on skewers to achieve the same irresistible juicy caramelized edges. My step-by-step tutorial and video (below) show you exactly how to make this doner kebab recipe and how to turn the chicken into wraps or bowls – all complete with homemade hummus and dynamic garlic yogurt sauce. This doner kebab recipe is excellent for meal prep, make ahead lunch/dinners, entertaining and leftovers – all instructions included.

Doner Kebab Recipe Video

up close of doner kebab with chicken, hummus, tomatoes, red onions, cucumber and yogurt sauce

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DONER KEBAB RECIPE

The first time I sunk my teeth into a doner kebab was at kebab shop on my trip to Germany last year.  My parents live in Frankfurt and know all the best local spots.  I instantly fell in love with the irresistible complex flavors and fresh ingredients. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with different flavor combinations and ratios to bring you the best doner kebabs made easy at home. 

And let me just say, you will LOVE these doner kebabs!  They avoid the all-too frequent trap of monotony with mesmerizing layers of earthiness, heat and acid begging to be swaddled in flatbread or served as a plate with fragrant rice and fresh veggies.  Here are just a few reasons to love this doner kebab recipe:

  • Easy.  Marinate the chicken, whip up the yogurt sauce and chop some veggies.  When ready to serve, corral the ingredients into a wrap or enjoy the spread on a plate.  When making plates, I also throw ingredients into my rice cooker for curried rice (instructions included) – couldn’t be any easier!
  • Flavor and texture.  This doner kebab recipe is every bit as delicious as your favorite kebab shop – and then some.   The bold, juicy chicken with crispy charred bits, creamy hummus, cooling garlic yogurt sauce, fresh crisp veggies and juicy tomatoes all wrapped in warm pita bread is out of this world. 
  • Prep ahead. While the chicken marinates, you can prep the yogurt sauce and chop the veggies so all you have to do is cook the chicken at dinner time – winner, winner chicken dinner!
  • Meal prep or make ahead.  You can cook the chicken ahead of time then divide the ingredients between containers for meal prep or have everything ready to go at lunch or dinner time.
  • Versatile.  This is one of my favorite aspects of doner kebabs.  You can serve the marinated chicken plain with whatever sides you desire or serve as wraps, bowls, or salads.  I will often make a big batch of marinated doner kebabs on Sunday and serve it countless ways throughout the week.  
  • Family friendly.  Everyone can assemble their own doner kebab wraps, plates, salads or grain bowls with their favorite ingredients. 
  • Healthy.  This doner kebab recipe can be devoured guilt free and you’ll love every bite.  The fresh, vibrant veggies are also the perfect complement to the earthy, robust chicken.
  • Easy to double.  You can double or triple the recipe for entertaining, for purposeful leftovers or to freeze.
  • Great for entertaining. You can prep all of the wrap or salad ingredients ahead of time then just grill the doner kebabs while your guests chat it up and then everyone can assemble their own wraps or plates.  This makes YOUR life easier and THEIR plates perfect for them!

WHAT ARE DONER KEBABS?

The doner kebab (also spelled döner kebab or doner kabob) originated in Turkey and consists of stacked, yogurt-spiced marinated meats – lamb, turkey, chicken, beef, or a mix of meat – that is cooked on a slowly-rotating, vertical spit in front of a rotisserie for hours.  As the meat cooks, it self-bastes in its own seasoned fat and juices which creates lusciously juicy, flavorful meat and beautifully crisp and caramelized outside edges. The doner kebab is thinly shaved off the spit to-order and is either served on a plate or in a flatbread along with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, cucumber and either chili sauce or garlic yogurt sauce.

What does Doner mean in doner kebab?

Doner kebab gets its name from the Turkish word dönmek which means “to turn” or “to rotate” and kebab means to roast so doner kebab literally means “rotating roast.”

Usually “doner kebab” refers to the doner kebab meat served in wrap, but for this post, I’ll use it to refer to the meat on the skewer.

Where do doner kebabs come from?

The doner kebab is the mother of all kebabs.  It is the originator of grilling stacks of meat on a spit and continuously shaving it off as it cooks (and not just grilling a single piece of meat) dating as far back as the 17th century in the Ottoman Empire in what is now Turkey.  This Turkish shaved meat is known as the doner kebab.  The vertical rotisserie was later introduced in the mid-19th century.

Today, doner kebab is one of the world’s most popular street foods in not just Turkey but all throughout Europe – and soon you will taste why!  

There are countless deviations of the doner kebab such as Greek gyros, Arab chicken shawarma, and even the famous Mexican Tacos Al Pastor which was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in  the early 20th century.

Who invented doner kebabs?

Kadir Nurman is credited with inventing the modern-day doner kebab in the town of Bursa, Turkey.  It is believed his grandfather first began roasting lamb vertically rather than horizontally at his father’s restaurant.  Kadir embraced this technique and opened up a stall in West Berlin in 1972, selling vertically grilled meat and salad inside a flat bread.

What is doner kebabb meat made out of?

Doner kebab meat is primarily made from processed lamb meat although it may also be chicken, beef, or veal, although never pork.  For this recipe, I’ve chosen easily accessible, juicy chicken thighs which I’ve marinated in intoxicating spiced yogurt, grilled and then thinly sliced off the skewers.  The resulting chicken boasts a tantalizing charred exterior while the inside remains splendidly juicy and flavorful. Use the chicken in wraps, pitas, as rice bowls, in salads or sandwiches. No matter how you serve it, you will love this new easy favorite.

showing how to make doner kebab plates by adding kebabs to a platter with rice, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and cucumbers

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GYRO AND DONER KEBAB?

At first glance, a gyro and doner kebab can look almost identical, especially because the most popular way to serve both of them is in a pita sandwich or wrap. This method of serving is so popular that when serving doner kebabs as a wrap or sandwich, they are simply called “kebabs” and the wrap is implied.  

Both doner kebab and gyros are popular street foods consisting of a marinated cone of stacked sliced meats (most often lamb) that are roasted on a rotating spit then thinly shaved off to order.  Where they differ, however, are the seasonings (AKA flavor!) and toppings:

  • Seasonings:  The Greek gyro is primarily seasoned with a blend of lemon juice, oregano and garlic with a few additional herbs for a strong, bright lemon/oregano flavor.  Doner kebab is seasoned with cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, and cinnamon to create a warm, earthy, smoky, pungent flavor.  
  • Toppings:  Another main distinction between doner kebab and Greek gyros are the toppings. While they both can be garnished with lettuce, red onions and tomatoes, Greek gyros are always finished off with tzatziki sauce – a yogurt-based sauce seasoned with cucumbers, garlic and dill. Doner kebab can be finished with tzatziki, but more often it is finished with a yogurt-mayo sauce that doesn’t contain dill or cucumber, simply lemon juice and garlic. It can also be served with tahini or chili sauce instead.  Doner kebab also often contains hummus tabbouleh.  

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHAWARMA AND DONER?

Doner kebab and shawarma share many similarities. As previously discussed, Turkey invented the method of grilling stacks of meat on a spit. Shawarma is the Arab/Middle Eastern version of it.  Both meats are street food made from meat shaved off of a rotisserie and both are most often served as wraps using flatbreads such as lavash or pitas.  What sets the two apart are toppings

  • Shawarma Toppings:  when serving as a wrap, shawarma can be served with all sorts of toppings from simple lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers to tahini, hummus, amba, and pickled turnips. Most often, however, it is topped with a lemon-garlic tahini sauce.
  • Doner Kebab Toppings: is most often served with simple toppings such as tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. etc. but in some wrap shops in Istanbul, it can be served with hot sauce, mashed potatoes and even French fries much like my favorite California Burrito. In countries such as Germany in which Turkish immigrants brought the doner kebab over, it is often served with a mayonnaise-based sauce.

WHAT IS DONER KEBAB MADE OF?

Doner kebab can be made of lamb, turkey, chicken, beef, or a mix of meat, but I’ve kept this recipe simple using easy, economical, accessible, approachable, kid friendly and delicious chicken.  The chicken can be grilled or baked then made into wraps, salads, sandwiches or bowls.  If you would like to use other proteins, this doner kebab marinade would be fabulous on anything – it makes EVERYTHING better! 

THE Spices

Doner kebab is intensely flavorful due to the plethora of seasonings.  I know it is a lot of spices, but they each play a crucial role in the complex flavor profile and only take a couple minutes to whisk together so please don’t skip any!  You will need:

  • Cumin:  warm, earthy, nutty, with a hint of both sweet and bitter 
  • Smoked paprika: rich, mild, sweet, and smoky made from smoked pimento peppers dried over oak fires
  • Coriander: earthy, tart, and sweet
  • Cinnamon:  strong, warm and sweetly pungent
  • Garlic powder:  dehydrated garlic for better distribution; is pungent, aromatic, and spicy.
  • Onion powder:  aromatic with a spicy bite 
  • Chili powder:  made from a blend chili peppers and other spices including cumin, onion, garlic powder; note American chili powder is NOT hot cayenne pepper
  • Oregano: aromatic, earthy, minty notes
  • Salt and pepper:  enhance all of the flavors

THE MARINADE

I love marinades because it is the easiest way to tenderize chicken and infuse otherwise boring chicken with tons of flavor. The resulting symphony of flavors ensures our doner kebab is seeping with a chorus of robust, earthy, warm flavors.  And bonus, by marinating chicken, all the work to create a flavorful bite is already done for you when it’s time to eat.   All you have to do is cook the chicken and devour!

  • Greek yogurt:  the calcium and lactic acid work together to break down the protein in the chicken, leaving it super tender.  It also creates a thick coating which insulates the chicken from drying out.
  • Olive oil:  use extra quality olive oil for the best flavor. The olive oil dissolves fat-soluble flavor compounds from the seasonings and other flavorings and evenly disperses them onto the surface of the chicken. 
  • Lemon juice:  helps tenderize the chicken by breaking down lean muscle fibers.
  • Tomato paste:  helps tenderize the chicken and adds subtle flavor.  
  • Balsamic vinegar:  isn’t a traditional ingredient in doner kebab, but after using it in my Greek Chicken marinade, chicken shawarma and now this doner kebab recipe, I can attest it adds a depth of flavor.

WHAT CUT OF CHICKEN IS BEST?

You will want to use boneless skinless chicken thighs for this doner kebab recipe. Chicken thighs are dark meat which means they are inherently juicier, richer tasting and produce far more tender chicken than chicken breasts.  We need the higher fat content of chicken thighs to insulate the chicken from drying out when cooking at the high heat required to create the caramelized exterior.

CAN I USE CHICKEN BREASTS?

If you want to use chicken breasts, then I don’t recommend threading them onto skewers to make kebabs.  Instead, pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness before marinating, or if your chicken breasts are extra-large, slice them through the equator to create fillets.  Now, grill the chicken directly on the grill.

top view of doner kebab plate with thinly sliced meat, thinly sliced lettuce, thinly sliced red onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, Lebanese flatbread and garlic yogurt sauce

HOW TO SERVE DONER KEBAB MEAT

There are two traditional ways doner kebab meat is served – as doner kebab wraps and doner kebab plates.  They both use similar ingredients so you can even set up an ingredients bar and let everyone decide what to make. 

Kebabs AKA “Doner kebab Wraps”

Lebanese flatbread is smeared with hummus then topped with finely shredded lettuce, chopped cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions then loaded with thinly shaved doner kebab meat.  It is then topped with garlic yogurt sauce (recipe included) or tahini.  You can also drizzle with chili sauce like sriracha if you like it spicy. 

Doner Kebab Plates 

Doner kebab plates are like a deconstructed wrap with a few more options.  Your plate is loaded with doner kebab meat, sliced tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, and thinly sliced lettuce – all of which is sometimes combined along with thinly sliced carrots to create a salad.  Plates are also often served with tabbouleh, Mejadra or curried rice (recipe in notes) along with a side of warm Lebanese flatbread.  Hummus and yogurt sauce are also served on the side.

Doner Kebab Salad 

Are your low carb option.  Serve with the same ingredients as plates but skip the rice and flatbread.

DONER KEBAB INGREDIENTS

This doner kebab recipe begins with the intoxicating marinated grilled chicken, fresh veggies, cool garlic yogurt sauce all cocooned in warm flatbread. Here’s what you’ll need:

THE FLATBREAD

There are many types of flatbreads, but for doner kebab wraps, you will want Lebanese flatbread also known as Arabic bread, Syrian bread or simply pita bread.  It is a soft, slightly leavened flatbread baked at high temperatures, so it puffs up in the oven.

You can make your own flatbread (there are tons of recipes online) or purchase it at your grocery store or Amazon.  When purchasing flatbread, look for soft, thin pitas as opposed to thick pitas or pitas with pockets because the thinner flatbreads will wrap more easily.  You’ll know if the pita bread has a pocket or not because it will usually say “pocket” in the name verses “pita flat bread” or “authentic pita bread.”  My local sprouts carries great Lebanese flatbread.

VEGGIES

  • Lettuce.  Use crunchy iceberg or Romaine lettuce. Remove the outer leaves so the lettuce is fresh and crunchy.
  • Tomatoes. Please use ripe tomatoes for the best flavor and texture. 
  • Cucumber.  I use an English Cucumber so there is no peeling required but you can also use a slicing cucumber and peel. 
  • Red onions.  You’ll want to thinly slice the red onions for the best texture and even flavor.  Use more or less to taste.  You can also pickle the red onions.

OTHER TOPPINGS

  • Hummus.  Is used at the base of the wrap to “glue” everything in place. You can use plain hummus or your favorite such as roasted red pepper hummus. I highly recommend my hummus recipe – it can’t be beat!
  • Amba.  Is a tangy mango pickled condiment made of pickled green mangos, vinegar, salt, turmeric, chili and fenugreek.  If you can get your hands on it, it is fabulous or you can make our own.  A less traditional, accessible option would be mango chutney.
  • Pickled turnips.  Are described as the pickle of the Middle East with their vinegary bite of heat and contrasting crunch.  They can be found at some grocery stores, Asian markets and always on Amazon.  

NON TRADITIONAL TOPPINGS

  • Bell peppers.  You can use red, yellow or orange bell peppers – whatever you have on hand.  They are also delicious sautéed for a minute or two OR use roasted red bell peppers – yum!
  • Olives. Kalamata olives boast a dark, rich intensely fruity flavor.
  • Chickpeas.  Roasted chickpeas tossed in some olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne add a fun flavor/texture pop.
  • Artichoke hearts.  I love their tanginess!  Make sure to rinse and drain if you purchase them in oil.
  • Sundried tomatoes. Same as above -rinse before using.  I also like to chop them into bite-size pieces.
  • Avocado. Their luscious creaminess is always a welcome addition.
top view showing how to serve doner kebab meat by adding kebabs to a plate with hummus, thinly sliced lettuce, thinly sliced red onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, curried rice, Lebanese flatbread, chili sauce and garlic yogurt sauce

DONER KEBAB SAUCE

Doner Kebab meat is often served with either white sauce or red sauce – but I like both!  The white sauce is usually a mixture of mayonnaise and yogurt but I’ve gone all guilt free Greek yogurt. My lemon garlic yogurt sauce is lusciously creamy, tangy, super flavorful and marries all of the flavors and textures together.  You can also serve doner kebabs with tzatziki which is fabulous, or tahini sauce, but I don’t find the latter as refreshing.

The red sauce is spicy chili sauce.  It can be made from scratch from chili sauce, vinegar, sugar, cayenne pepper, etc., but I find pantry friendly siracha does the trick.  

YOGURT GARLIC SAUCE INGREDIENTS

For this yogurt sauce, I kept it super fresh and simple.  Just whisk the ingredients together in a bowl and chill. You will need:

  • Greek yogurt: you must use Greek yogurt verses regular yogurt because Greek yogurt is much thicker.  You may use either Greek whole-milk yogurt, low-fat or non-fat yogurt and they will all produce excellently thick, creamy results. 
  • Garlic: I use 2 garlic cloves for but you are welcome to add more or less to taste.
  • Lemon juice: fresh lemon juice is preferred, but you may substitute with bottled lemon juice.   
  • Parsley: clean, slightly peppery with a touch of earthiness and almost anise-like.  Use the top of the bunch, no need to separate the leaves from the stems.  
  • Mint: refreshing, clean, cooling mint plays beautifully with the parsley and garlic. Use more or less to taste.
  • Seasonings:  Salt, pepper, ground cumin and ground coriander round out the flavor profile. Use more or less to taste.

HOW TO MAKE DONER KEBAB

STEP 1: MARINATE CHICKEN

  • Whisk all of the Marinade ingredients together in a large bowl or freezer size plastic bag. 
  • HOW LONG DO I MARINATE THE CHICKEN?  You will want to marinate the chicken for 8-24 hours.  You can get away with marinating it for less time, but the longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become. 
showing how to make doner kebab by adding all of the seasonings to a plate
showing how to make doner kebab by marinating chicken in spiced yogurt marinade in a glass bowl

STEP 2: MAKE GARLIC YOGURT SAUCE

  • While the chicken is marinating, whisk the Garlic Yogurt Sauce ingredient together in a medium bowl.  Chill until ready to serve.  
  • The sauce can be made at the time you start marinating the chicken or preferable at least an hour before serving.

STEP 3: CHOP VEGGIES

  • At any point while the chicken is marinating and yogurt sauce is chilling, chop the lettuce, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers.
  • Refrigerate in separate airtight containers.  I like to place a paper towel with the tomatoes to absorb excess moisture and keep them fresh.

STEP 4: THREAD CHICKEN ONTO SKEWERS

  • Using 2 skewers for each kebab, thread one side of the thigh onto each skewer and then the other side.
  • Slide the chicken down to the end of the skewers.
  • Repeat with half the chicken, pushing the chicken against each other.
  • Repeat to make a second kabob with the remaining chicken.
showing how to make doner kebab by threading chicken onto skewers

STEP 5: COOK KEBABS – Grill or BAKE

  • When ready to cook, let chicken sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.  This will ensure the chicken cooks evenly.
  • You can grill the chicken outdoors or cook it in the oven.  I prefer grilling the chicken because it not only takes less time but imparts that wonderfully smoky flavor.

TO GRILL DONER KEBABS:

  • Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Clean grates and generously grease with oil.   The yogurt likes to stick so make sure you don’t skimp on the oil.
  • Once hot, add kebabs, and grill for 4-5 minutes without moving.  Flip kebabs over and grill the other side an addition 4-5 minutes.  Don’t attempt to move the kebabs before 4-5 minutes or else the chicken will tear due to the thick marinade.  Once you can easily move the chicken, then you can flip it over.
  • Flip the chicken over, COVER and reduce heat so it maintains 400 degrees F with the lid closed. 
  • Continue to cook, approximately 5-10 additional minutes per side turning once, until chicken reaches 165 degrees F.  
showing how to make doner kebab by grilling kebabs on a gas grill

TO BAKE DONER KEBABS

  • Create your own horizontal rotisserie by lining a pan with foil that allows you to perch the metal skewers on the top rim of the pan so that the chicken hangs in the middle without touching the bottom of the pan.  Typically, a 9×13 pan will do the trick.  This will allow air to circulate on all sides of the chicken so you achieve more caramelized edges. 
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, then flip kebabs over. 
  • Spoon the pan juices over the chicken and bake an addition 15- 20 minutes or until chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
  • Optional:  Without moving the pan, turn oven to broil and broil for 3-5 minutes per side for more yummy crispy bits.  Baste again with pan juices.
showing how to make doner kebab by hanging kebabs on a baking dish

STEP 6: WARM FLATBREAD

  • Oven:  wrap the desired amount of flatbread in foil and place in the oven. Heat for 8-10 minutes or until warm and pliable.  Remove from the oven using oven mitts.
  • Grill: place desired amount of flatbread on the grill for a few minutes to warm.  Don’t cook for too long or they’ll become crispy.

STEP 7: CARVE

  • Let chicken rest 5-10 minutes before carving.
  • Stand the skewers upright on a cutting board and thinly slice chicken off.
showing how to make doner kebab by thinly slicing meat off of the skewers onto a cutting board

STEP 8: Serve

  • DONER KEBAB “WRAPS”: Spread a generous amount of hummus over warmed flatbread.  Top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, chicken, and garlic yogurt sauce. Drizzle with sriracha if you like some heat – careful, a little goes a long way.
  • DONER KEBAB PLATES:  Serve chicken on a plate with desired accompaniments such as warmed flatbread, curried rice (see notes), shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and sides of garlic yogurt sauce, sriracha and hummus. 

HOW TO COOK DONER CHICKEN WITHOUT SKEWERS

Skewering the doner chicken creates juicy chicken with delightful caramelized edges.  If you don’t have skewers, you can also cook the chicken without skewering but the edges won’t become quite as crispy.  You also don’t need to cut the thighs in half.

STOVE TOP:

  • Heat one tablespoon vegetable oil a large cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium high heat.
  • Working in batches, add chicken in a single layer and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium.  Cook approximately 3-5 additional minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

GRILL:

  • Grease and preheat the grill to medium high heat, 375-450°F.
  • Grill chicken, covered, for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through and an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

BAKE

  • Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. 
  • Add chicken to baking sheet in a single layer so they aren’t touching. 
  • Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  • Broil each side for extra crispiness.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
showing how to make doner kebab wraps by adding thinly sliced meat to Lebanese flatbread  with hummus, thinly sliced lettuce, thinly sliced red onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, chili sauce and garlic yogurt sauce

TIPS FOR MAKING DONER KEBAB RECIPE

  • Use chicken thighs.  For the juiciest, most flavorful chicken with greater caramelization, use chicken thighs.  Chicken breasts are too lean and will dry out at the high heat and duration required to caramelize the exterior of the chicken.
  • Cut chicken in half.  Cut the chicken thighs in half to create two smaller pieces.  The smaller pieces will cook more evenly and quickly and create more edges for caramelization.  Try and cut them roughly the same size.
  • Marinate chicken.  The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become but don’t marinate longer than 24 hours.
  • Skewer on a flat surface. The chicken is easiest to skewer without piercing yourself by placing the skewers on a flat surface and securing one side of the chicken and then the other. Always remove your fingers from behind the chicken and move them to the sides when pushing the chicken onto the skewer.
  • Clean and grease grill:  the yogurt-based marinade likes to stick so make sure you clean the grill well before greasing and don’t skimp on the oil.
  • Don’t rush the flip:  Don’t attempt to move the kebabs before 4-5 minutes or else the chicken will tear due to the thick marinade.  You need enough time for the doner kebabs to start to char.  Once you can easily move the chicken, then you can flip it over.
  • Cooking time will vary.  I’ve made this chicken kebab recipe many times and the cooking time is never exactly the same.  The total time will depend on how thick your chicken is and exactly how hot your grill is.
  • Use a meat thermometer.  Due to variances above, always use a meat thermometer so you don’t undercook, OR overcook the chicken. Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • Let chicken rest.  After chicken is finished cooking, transfer it to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing so it has time to reabsorb the juices that have pushed towards the outside of the chicken. If you cut into the chicken immediately after cooking, valuable, moisture-giving juices will run out.
  • Prep the sauce with the chicken. The garlic yogurt sauce is very best after being refrigerated for at least one hour so the flavors have time to meld; so, make the sauce right after you add the chicken to the marinade if possible.
  • Don’t skip the sauce!  The yogurt sauce is a key so please don’t skip.  Its creamy consistency is needed to marry all of the ingredients together and its refreshing tanginess cuts through the earthy flavors of the chicken.  If you don’t want to make the sauce, you can use Greek yogurt instead, it just won’t be quite as good.
  • Customize toppings.  The wrap/topping ingredients are simply suggestions- you can use add/swap any ingredients for your favs such as bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.
  • You don’t have to make a wrap!  Turn the doner kebab meat into anything you want – grain bowls, salad, pasta salad, sandwiches, even pizza.

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH DONER KEBAB RECIPE?

Doner Kebab is practically a meal in itself with nutritious protein and veggies.  It is also delicious with these sides:

IS DONER KEBAB HEALTHY?

Doner kebab meat at kebab shops is often processed lamb meat.  Our homemade doner kebabs use chicken things which are leaner without any mystery ingredients.

Doner kebabs are stuffed with chicken, veggies, and healthy Greek yogurt sauce.  The chicken is an excellent source of protein, low in sodium with zero carbohydrates; the veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals and the yogurt sauce is high in protein, packed with calcium and also an excellent source of potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12.  

If you’re looking to make your doner kebab recipe even healthier, use whole wheat flatbread or low carb flatbread like Flatout Flatbread.

HOW LONG WILL DONER KEBAB LAST IN THE FRIDGE?

The cooked chicken can stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days and is ready to use when needed!  The fresh components should be stored separately so the tomatoes don’t make the other ingredients soggy and stay as fresh as possible. 

up close of grilled doner kebabs showing how charred and juicy they are

CAN I PREP DONER KEBAB IN ADVANCE?

Doner kebabs make excellent meal prep.  If you are meal prepping for at home, then you can easily store all of the ingredients in separate containers in the refrigerator. If you are meal prepping for on the go lunches, I consolidate the ingredients. I prefer warm doner kebab meat, so I divide the chicken from the fresh ingredients. Here’s how: 

  1. Divide chicken between desired number of containers. Don’t close containers until chicken has cooled.
  2. Combine lettuce, and red onions in bag and combine tomatoes, and cucumbers in their own separate plastic bags (so they don’t make other ingredients soggy) and place bags on top of chicken.  Store yogurt sauce in a bag or small container.
  3. When ready to serve, warm chicken in the microwave and then assemble the wraps.

CAN I FREEZE DONER KEBABS?

Yes!  You can freeze the uncooked marinating chicken or cooked chicken.

  • Freeze chicken in marinade.  Add the chicken to the marinade ingredients and freeze.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  When you’re ready to use, the chicken will marinate as you defrost the chicken in the refrigerator.
  • Freeze chicken.  You can also freeze cooked doner kebab meat for easy meal prep or use-as-you-go individual wraps. After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.

HOW TO REHEAT DONER KEBABS

  • Skillet:  heat a tablespoon of olive oil in skillet and heat over medium low heat.  Add chicken and heat until warmed through, adding a splash of water for added moisture if needed.
  • Microwave:  reheat in the microwave at 30 second intervals, taking care not to overcook.
  • Oven:  cover chicken with foil and reheat in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F or just until warmed through.

HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE DONER KEBABS

  • Skewers: I LOVE my stainless-steel skewers!  They allow you to grill any time without soaking your wooden skewers (AKA no fires!), are reusable, dishwasher safe with an easy to use top ring handle. They are definitely worth the $20 for a lifetime of use.
  • Grill brush:  is essential for keeping your grill clean!  This grill brush with scrapers cleans stubborn stains deeply and efficiently. 
  • Instant-read thermometer:  you need an instant-read thermometer for the juiciest chicken, steak and pork AND for perfectly fried everything! It allows you to cook any protein to the perfect temperature every time and allows you to heat oil to the correct temperature for frying.
  • Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far!  Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well.  If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthof but there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
  • Cutting Board:  I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment.  This large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and teak is known for its outstanding moisture resistance and strength due to natural oils locked into the grain,
up close of doner kebab wraps with thinly sliced meat to Lebanese flatbread  with hummus, thinly sliced lettuce, thinly sliced red onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, chili sauce and garlic yogurt sauce

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Doner Kebab

Doner Kebabs are a Turkish kebab recipe that’s healthy, juicy and bursting with exotic flavors from an easy marinade layered with hand-picked seasonings. Doner kebabs are usually cooked on a rotating spit but I’ve included how to grill or bake the chicken kebabs on skewers to achieve the same irresistible juicy caramelized edges. My step-by-step tutorial and video (below) show you exactly how to make this doner kebab recipe and how to turn the chicken into wraps or bowls – all complete with dynamic garlic yogurt sauce. This doner kebab recipe is excellent for meal prep, make ahead lunch/dinners, entertaining and leftovers – all instructions included.
Servings: 4 -6 people
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

CHICKEN AND MARINADE

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut in half
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp EACH ground cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsps EACH garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, salt, dried oregano
  • ½ tsp EACH ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper, pepper

GARLIC YOGURT SAUCE

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp EACH ground cumin, ground coriander, pepper

WRAPS and PLATES (pick your favs)

  • Lebanese bread/flatbread/pita bread warmed
  • 1 recipe hummus (or store-bought)
  • finely sliced Romaine or iceberg lettuce
  • cherry tomatoes, halved or Roma tomatoes, sliced and quartered
  • English cucumber sliced and quartered
  • red onion thinly sliced quartered
  • Spiralized carrots
  • chili sauce I use sriracha
  • rice – for plates (see notes)

Instructions

MARINADE

  • Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add chicken halves and stir to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate 8-24 hours.

GARLIC YOGURT SAUCE

  • Whisk the Garlic Yogurt Sauce ingredient together in a medium bowl. Chill until ready to serve. The sauce can be made at the time you start marinating the chicken or aim for at least an hour before cooking the chicken.

SKEWER

  • Using 2 skewers for each kebab, thread one side of the thigh onto each skewer and then the other side; slide the skewered chicken down to the end (see photos in post or video). Repeat with half the chicken, pushing the chicken against each other. Repeat to make a second kabob with the remaining chicken.

TO GRILL

  • Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Clean grates and generously grease with oil.
  • Once hot, add kebabs, and grill for 4-5 minutes without moving. Flip kebabs over and grill the other side an addition 4-5 minutes.
  • Next, flip chicken over, COVER and reduce heat so it maintains 400 degrees F with the lid closed. Continue to cook, approximately 5-10 additional minutes per side turning once, until chicken reaches 165 degrees F. Remove from grill and let rest 5 minutes before carving.
  • Meanwhile, add flatbread to the grill to warm up.

TO BAKE

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a pan with foil that allows you to perch the metal skewers on the top rim of the pan so the chicken hangs in the middle without touching the bottom of the pan (see photos in post or video).
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, then flip kebabs over. Spoon the pan juices over the chicken and bake an addition 15- 20 minutes or until chicken reaches 165 degrees F. Optional: Without moving the pan, turn oven to broil and broil for 3-5 minutes per side for more yummy crispy bits. Baste again with pan juices. Let rest 5-10 minutes before carving.

WARM FLATBREAD

  • Meanwhile, wrap the desired amount of flatbread in foil and place in the oven. Heat for 8-10 minutes or until warm and pliable. Remove from the oven using oven mitts.

CARVE

  • Stand the skewers upright on a cutting board and thinly slice chicken off.

DONER KEBAB WRAPS

  • Spread a generous amount of hummus over warmed flatbread. Top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, chicken, and garlic yogurt sauce. Drizzle with sriracha if you like some heat – careful, a little goes a long way.

DONER KEBAB PLATES

  • Serve chicken on a plate with desired accompaniments such as warmed flatbread, curried rice (see notes), shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and sides of garlic yogurt sauce, sriracha and hummus.

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!

Curried Rice

Make super easy curried rice by adding the following to your rice cooker along with water according to your rice cooker directions:
  • 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 ½ tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp EACH onion powder, garlic powder, salt
  • ½ tsp EACH smoked paprika, pepper, ground ginger
 

TIPS and tricks

  • Use chicken thighs.  For the juiciest, most flavorful chicken with greater caramelization, use chicken thighs.  Chicken breasts are too lean and will dry out at the high heat and duration required to caramelize the exterior of the chicken.
  • CAN I USE CHICKEN BREASTS?  If you want to use chicken breasts, then I don’t recommend threading them onto skewers to make kebabs.  Instead, pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness before marinating, or if your chicken breasts are extra-large, slice them through the equator to create fillets.  Now, grill the chicken directly on the grill.
  • Cut chicken in half.  Cut the chicken thighs in half to create two smaller pieces.  The smaller pieces will cook more evenly and quickly and create more edges for caramelization.  Try and cut them roughly the same size.
  • Marinate chicken.  The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become but don’t marinate longer than 24 hours.
  • Skewer on a flat surface. The chicken is easiest to skewer without piercing yourself by placing the skewers on a flat surface and securing one side of the chicken and then the other. Always remove your fingers from behind the chicken and move them to the sides when pushing the chicken onto the skewer.
  • Clean and grease grill:  the yogurt-based marinade likes to stick so make sure you clean the grill well before greasing and don’t skimp on the oil.
  • Don’t rush the flip:  Don’t attempt to move the kebabs before 4-5 minutes or else the chicken will tear due to the thick marinade.  You need enough time for the doner kebabs to start to char.  Once you can easily move the chicken, then you can flip it over.
  • Cooking time will vary.  I’ve made this chicken kebab recipe many times and the cooking time is never exactly the same.  The total time will depend on how thick your chicken is and exactly how hot your grill is.
  • Use a meat thermometer.  Due to variances above, always use a meat thermometer so you don’t undercook, OR overcook the chicken. Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • Let chicken rest.  After chicken is finished cooking, transfer it to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing so it has time to reabsorb the juices that have pushed towards the outside of the chicken. If you cut into the chicken immediately after cooking, valuable, moisture-giving juices will run out.
  • Prep the sauce with the chicken. The garlic yogurt sauce is very best after being refrigerated for at least one hour so the flavors have time to meld; so, make the sauce right after you add the chicken to the marinade if possible.
  • Don’t skip the sauce!  The yogurt sauce is a key so please don’t skip.  Its creamy consistency is needed to marry all of the ingredients together and its refreshing tanginess cuts through the earthy flavors of the chicken.  If you don’t want to make the sauce, you can use Greek yogurt instead, it just won’t be quite as good.
  • Customize toppings.  The wrap/topping ingredients are simply suggestions- you can use add/swap any ingredients for your favs such as bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.
  • You don’t have to make a wrap!  Turn the doner kebab meat into anything you want – grain bowls, salad, pasta salad, sandwiches, even pizza.

MEAL PREP

  1. Divide chicken between desired number of containers. Don’t close containers until chicken has cooled.
  2. Combine lettuce, and red onions in bag and combine tomatoes, and cucumbers in their own separate plastic bags (so they don’t make other ingredients soggy) and place bags on top of chicken.  Store yogurt sauce in a bag or small container.
  3. When ready to serve, warm chicken in the microwave and then assemble the wraps.

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34 Comments

  1. Nicole Krause says

    Could this be adapted for beef?

    • Jen says

      Hi Nicole I haven’t tried it with beef, but I don’t see why not!

  2. Nicole Krause says

    I really do not like chicken thighs. Could I use chicken breast if I using the baking method and not grill?

    • Jen says

      Hi Nicole, if you want to use chicken breasts, then I don’t recommend threading them onto skewers to make kebabs. Instead, pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness before marinating, or if your chicken breasts are extra-large, slice them through the equator to create fillets. Now, grill the chicken directly on the grill.

  3. Sharon says

    I had beef flap meat defrosted when I got your email posting. I used that and it was amazing. I broiled in oven. Yummy. Just delicious! Never have been a fan of sweet spices with meat but this changed my mind. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      That is awesome Sharon! I’m so happy it worked out with the flap meat and that you loved the marinade! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  4. Linda says

    Holy Hannah, that was delicious! Will definitely use this recipe in my regular rotation. I usually don’t care for chicken thighs, but did use them — very moist and delicious! Yumola! Thank you, Jen!

    • Jen says

      Yesss! Thanks Linda, I’m thrilled you loved it so much even with the chicken thighs!

  5. Marlene says

    I also thought this was delicious, Jen. Great flavor profile, well balanced spices. I marinated the chicken thighs about 6 hours and did them in the broiler, not too close to the heat. took about 20 minutes total. After cutting enough meat for tonight’s dinner I put them back to crisp a bit. I made a lot to have leftovers!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Marlene! and great idea to broil, cut and crisp up – yum!

  6. Lora says

    I made this for dinner tonight and it’s another winner! So, so good…how do you consistently come up with such fantastic recipes?

    • Jen says

      Thank you Lora! I’m so happy you’re loving my recipes including this one! I just love being creative in the kitchen, plus eating – so I guess it’s a winning combo 😉

  7. Lainie says

    This was EXCELLENT! Not only did my son (an INCREDIBLY picky eater) love it, he asked for it again after only one week. Everything else he will only eat once a month! I couldn’t find flatbread so I used nann instead and it worked out perfectly!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your awesome comment Lainie! It’s the ultimate compliment when it’s a win with your picky eater! Thank you!

  8. Sheila says

    Jen, everyone loved this dish! We had this last week and was such a hit. I’m making this again, plus your Thai Basil Chicken. I know, anything from yours is gonna be a hit. I’ve recommended you to friends and family and they tell me all are great! Thank you so much for sharing these recipes!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for making my day Sheila! I’m honored you trust my recipes and are loving them so much! Thank you also for recommending me to your friends!

  9. Lainie says

    Jen, my son LOVES this recipe and he hates everything. Even if he does like something, I can make it about once a month or he gets sick of it. He loves this recipe so much that he eats it once a week and even eats leftovers! This NEVER happens. My question is, I doubled the marinade so we have extras and it keeps separating. I used all of the same ingredients and used all of the same ratios? Do you know why this might happen?

    • Jen says

      Thanks Lainie! I’m thrilled this recipe is such a winner with your picky son! As far as doubling the marinade- I am stumped! I don’t know why a large quantity would make a difference – I’m sorry!

    • Ekta says

      Hi Lainie, I doubled the marinade today and there was no problem at all. By separating do you mean the spices do not mix well with the yogurt?

      Jen, another recipe that was a super hit. I am so grateful I found this blog.

      Could you suggest a substitute for curry powder in the rice please?

      Ekta.

      • Jen says

        I’m so happy you loved it Ekta! Curry is hard to replicate but I would use a blend of 1/2 tsp EACH cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger and a pinch of cayenne. Good luck!

  10. Jacqueline Larsen says

    Omg I love these, your recipes are amazing!!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Jacqueline!

  11. Sheila says

    Hi Jen! Me and my family are a fan of everything Carlsbad Cravings! Especially this recipe! Thank you for sharing this recipe – it’s a family favorite (and a lot of other recipes from you!). I also want to thank you for the amount of information that you add in your blog posts. It’s not only the recipe, but you also add how this dish is different from another comparable dish; What can be substituted; what can be made ahead. Thank you so much! Your recipes are a staple in our weekly family meals.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment Sheila, you made my day! I’m so glad you find all of the information helpful and are loving my recipes. You and your family have great taste because this is one of my favorite recipes ever! Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy holiday season!

  12. ashok says

    Guys, Thanks For sharing this Great Recipe. My Family Loved it. I am definitely sharing this recipe and this website with my friend. Hope they also love it. Thank you again for sharing such a great recipe.

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome, I’m so pleased it was a hit! Thanks for sharing!

  13. HEATHER TORRE says

    This was delicious! Even my picky eater liked it! All of your recipes are winners. My husband will even ask, ” Is this Carlsbad Cravings?” I made homemade naan to serve with this and it was all soooo good.

    • Jen says

      Thank so much Heather, I’m so pleased it was a hit! Thank you for making my recipes!

  14. Salesha says

    Oh my gosh!! If you are thinking about making this recipe.. DO IT! I made this in the oven, it was super easy and sooo flavorful and delicious. We made pita wraps with the chicken, yogurt sauce, and veggies. This is a new favorite in our household.

    • Jen says

      Yessss, I love hearing this recipe is a new favorite, thanks Salesha!

  15. Mallorie says

    this recipe is to die for. my husband has claimed this to be is favorite meal I make. so good! Hummus was amazing. I don’t have a single negative thing to say. I made the rice in the instant pot and it came out amazing. for those who want to know, I did the 2 cups of rice with 2.5 cups of water and set the pressure cooker to 8 minutes and let it naturally release for 10 minutes.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for the awesome review Mallorie, I’m thrilled you both loved it so much! And thanks for the rice pressure cooker instructions!

  16. Nicole says

    Made this tonight, the whole lot including the curried rice and it was beyond fantastic. My new favorite recipe…and what’s funny is that I realized my other favorite recipe (crockpot pork carnitas) came from this blog. Guess I need to full on follow. Flavor city!!!

    • Jen says

      I’m thrilled this is your new favorite recipe Nicole! You have great taste Nicole – the doner kebabs and carnitas are both two of my favs as well! If you love those, I think you’ll love my other recipe! I hope you have fun exploring and hopefully find many new favorites here!